Andrew is freelance corporate journalist and business-to-business copywriter who has lived and worked in Germany ever since leaving Teddy Hall (University of Oxford) with a degree in History & Economics in 1973. His clients include companies such as Bayer, Novartis, Bombardier, Sharp and Konica-Minolta that require English-language texts for their international marketing communications, advertising or PR work. He has had his own business since 1978.
Q: What is your background? Why are you doing this?
A: Writing essays at Oxford proved to be an invaluable preparation for a career in writing; the skills required to filter out the essential facts from a wide range of historical sources for weekly tutorials turned out to be exactly the ones I needed in corporate writing. I am doing this job because I love writing.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: The ability to spot a market niche with new business potential, to decide what is more and what is less important on a day-to-day basis, and to discipline yourself to meet every deadline.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: Initially, I decided to become a freelance writer because after four years of full-time teaching, I did not fancy my career chances in the German school system. I continued to teach part time in a vocational training college but ultimately chose a full-time freelance writing career because it paid better and I had discovered how much I enjoyed writing.
Q: So what would you say are the top skills that are needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: Self-discipline, a strong work ethic and a good eye for business opportunities. Those are the qualities that count, at least over here in Germany.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: The sheer excitement and relative freedom of being your own boss – subject, of course, to the ever-present need to “keep the customer satisfied”.
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: Novartis. The inspirational architecture of the Novartis Campus in Basel has created a working environment for over 8,000 people, which brings both the company and its employees the benefits of creative, interdisciplinary collaboration and co-location.
Q: If you could have five minutes with the above company, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: Actually I frequently have more than five minutes at Novartis. What I tend to ask people there is how they experience the Campus and what advantages it brings them in their everyday work.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: Hard to say because I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many such moments. Generally speaking, it is a client’s appreciative comments on a “job well done” and my own personal satisfaction at completing a well-written text.
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
A: The most serious mistake I ever made was to become too dependent on one big client, who then stopped all marketing communications activities for a whole year. Over-dependence on one or two big clients is a huge risk for any entrepreneur.
Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Even a great business idea may take time to take root. I’ve seen people being forced out of business because of cash-flow problems in the first couple of years. If you set up on your own (at least here in Germany), it will always take a few years before you can live off your own business. So it’s always helpful to have some other source of income to tide you over. In my case it was part-time teaching.